The zero waste lifestyle has become more and more popular recently. As the name suggests, people who act in this way try to minimize or completely stop wasting Earth‘s resources. However, does such behavior make sense in today’s world and does it really benefit our planet and ourselves?
How did it all start?
A few years ago, sensational news spread around the world – Bea Johnson, a resident of the United States, stated that her family of four had produced just a jar of waste in a year. Some reacted with disbelief, others wondered what the purpose of such an action was, and some people followed Bea Johnson, and this is how a lifestyle was born, which more and more people are choosing. But what was the reason behind the lifestyle changes both by Bea Johnson and by many thousands of people thereafter? In fact, just look around while you are walking in the park or on the beach – we are surrounded by rubbish. We cannot get rid of some of them at all because they are not recyclable. This awareness makes some people change their lifestyle, including their attitude to waste generation.
The decision to live in a zero waste style is often influenced by watching documentaries. These are productions about how littered our planet is or about people who work in inhumane conditions, producing items we buy. Plastic is also an important factor in changing one’s lifestyle. We hear more and more often about the extremely harmful impact of this raw material on the environment and on ourselves. The issues of global warming, smog and hunger in the world are also important – all this is a syntax for reflection that often leads to rethinking our impact on the environment.
5 x R – zero waste basics
The statement that zero waste is a desire to minimize waste is not enough to paint a picture of this lifestyle. This movement has specific rules that make it easier to act and understand how to do it. The 5 x R rule:
- Refuse – The first rule is the easiest to implement in your daily life as it does not require any additional action. It is enough to refuse to accept things that will usually be of no use anyway, and will only generate additional garbage, thus burdening the planet. According to this rule, you should not accept leaflets, promotional bags and any kind of giveaway, e.g. lanyards, key rings, pens, samples of cosmetics and other gadgets. Without these items, we are able to function, and their removal will probably soon (usually they are not good quality items) become waste. On the one hand, it feels like these items have already been manufactured, so taking them away won’t change anything. However, zero waste people point out that the more we decline, the more likely it is that companies will stop producing such items.
- Reduce – following this rule brings zero waste very close to minimalism. This lifestyle encourages us to give up items that we don’t need. It is often the most difficult task posed by the 5 x R rule. At every step, we are surrounded by advertisements that encourage us to buy new clothes, cosmetics, electronic equipment, gadgets, thus creating needs that we do not really have. Changing our buying habits will have a great impact on both the environment and our wallet. This principle points out that each of our consumer choices should be responsible – when we buy something, we should think about the environmental impact of producing it and what will happen to it when we no longer need it.
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- Reuse – this rule says that things should be used to the end. Compliance with it is primarily associated with the use of reusable, second-hand items and recycling. People who try to follow the zero waste rules use cloth shopping bags, reusable pouches so that they do not pack vegetables in plastic bags in the store, and drink water from water bottles or filter bottles. This principle is also connected with buying used clothes and equipment (of course only when it is necessary, so as not to contradict the previous principle).
- Recycle (sort and recycle) – If waste is already produced, it should be ensured that it is properly processed and does not become useless garbage. That is why it is important to segregate waste (it allows recycling), but also to independently transform seemingly unnecessary things into something that can be useful to us. This is fostered by the idea of upcycling (more on that here).
- Rot (compost) – this is the principle of getting rid of organic waste. Thanks to composting, food remnants do not end up in landfills, where they generate a huge amount of greenhouse gases. At the same time, the person who composts receives high-quality natural fertilizer.
- The following is often added to the 5 x R rule: Repair – Before throwing out and buying a new thing, it is worth repairing what we already have. Remember – this principle is about being aware of the environmental impact of our actions and Rethink – rethinking your life so far and considering what changes you should make.
Is it possible to live like this?
It turns out that many people, not knowing about zero waste, follow this lifestyle. Just carry reusable shopping bags, sort your rubbish or drink tap water. You can always go one step further and start using reusable containers when shopping, using your own cup when buying take-out coffee, and choosing products in glass rather than plastic. You can find tons of blogs on the Internet with zero waste lifestyle tips., there are several dozen groups of people who try to live in accordance with this idea, and their number is constantly growing. Thanks to this, people share their experiences, suggest ideas for a waste-free life and support each other in their actions.
Individuals create global trends
In the zero waste discussion, there are often doubts as to whether units are capable of making a difference. After all, does it matter that one person uses reusable items when thousands of others use more readily available disposable solutions? Zero waste people report a significant improvement in their quality of life after making changes. By limiting yourself to the essentials while shopping, your wallet can be relieved, as well as saving space in your home and reducing the amount of waste produced. And the joy of buying? Zero waste people ensure that it is better to turn it into long-term pleasures, such as spending time with loved ones or a hobby – after all, the idea of not wasting time also applies.
Zero waste is an interesting lifestyle that encourages people to rethink their habits, especially the consumer ones. Of course, not everyone has to make their own cleaning products or homemade cheese, but drinking a drink without a disposable straw or refusing a free gadget will not significantly affect our quality of life, and may be the beginning of a positive change.